The Washington Post

Romney more popular than Reagan (at least in the first-name sweepstakes)

Ronald Reagan’s first name: not as popular as Mitt Romney’s. (Bob Galbraith/AP)

The GOP candidate has taken some schoolyard-worthy taunting over his little-used real first name (and even some ribs about “Mitt”— remember the poll in which 2 percent of people thought his name was ”Mittens”?).

But it turns out that Willard isn’t actually all that unusual a name--in fact, it’s more common than that of a president most GOP candidates love to emulate: Ronald Reagan.

A search of Social Security records shows that “Willard” was the 198th most popular boy’s name in 1947, the year that the candidate now known as “Mitt Romney” was born. In 1911, the year that Reagan was born, “Ronald” was only the 218th most popular male name.

Which means that Romney has a distinction that any Republican would envy: he’s more beloved than Reagan--well, at least his name is.

Plenty of other presidential candidates in the last century (winners and losers alike) have had far more unusual first names. Most obviously, there’s President Barack Obama, whose name doesn’t crack the top 1,000 boy names for his birth year.

But neither did Adlai (as in Stevenson) or Lyndon (as in Johnson), for their respective birth years.

And, of course, “Newton”--the first name of Romney’s rival, Newton Leroy Gingrich--isn’t exactly the “Jacob” of his era (Jacob being the most popular boy’s name of 2010).

It was 664th.

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.


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